Harvard, or so they say, has always been at the fore in leading this country's universities through political and social change. If the University's new independent investment unit is successful in forging an informal partnership among the firms managing Harvard's endowment, Harvard soon may also find itself at the vanguard of a new trend in money management.
The effort to forge a complementary relationship between the Harvard Management Co. and the outside firms that will help manage the portfolio beginning July 1 is the first of its kind among major university or institutional endowment funds.
Normally, large endowments are divided among several management companies that complete on the basis of the annual rate of return they can secure for the fund.
However, Walter M. Cabot '55, president of Harvard Management, plans to remove the short-run investment pressure by forging a long term relationship with the outside managers he names this summer to handle $400 million of the endowment. Cabot, whose own company will take care of $1 billion of the portfolio, says he will not ask the companies to compete against each other. Instead he will ask all of them to cooperate in pooling information that will help secure a higher rate of return for the total portfolio.
The idea of complementary relationships among supposedly competing firms is a bold innovation in the world of finance; only the Ford Foundation among other major endowment funds is known to be comtemplating it. But if Harvard's experiment works, as Cabot expects it will, many other funds will probably follow suit.